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Poster: jerlouvis Date: Mar 26, 2013 12:29pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: This is Spinal Tap

After Keith joined going forward the band added a bunch of new material spanning a variety of styles and also returned to the more challenging material with a new outlook and vigor,plus Pigpen's role was greatly reduced and it became Jerry's band which would be more conducive to wide spread success than a white blues singer led band.People can say all they want that it was Pig's band in his era,but I can't possibly believe that Lovelight,King Bee or whatever Pigpen blues/r+b numbers that I skip over when listening to shows were the main draw for the band as opposed to Dark Star,Other One and all the other Garcia/Weir material that it is in actuality the bulk of the bands repertoire.So the "fans" that left when Keith joined were seemingly Pigpen fans because if they thought the band now sucked I can't say they ever had a real grasp on the music,did they think Dark Star and the non-Pig material sucked in 69' or did it just suck when they added a piano.

My original point was that I don't know how influential the keyboardist seat was,but the way history transpired after adding Keith the band created a new performance model with the first set being rock and roll,country,blues and ballads and the second set a mix of the first set style with some long improvisational pieces thrown in the mix.This formula I believe is responsible for the bands longevity and wide spread popularity.It was a something for everybody type of deal,band members included.As for their success from Brent's time onward it was a combination of myth,only thing like it and the party/drug atmosphere surrounding the shows that drew people into a straight ahead,shitty rock show with vocals growing worse by the year with Brent yelling at you added to the mix.Also the hopes of schmucks like me that magically they could call up some of their old school mojo and blow our minds once again,sadly far and in between doesn't even seem to cover that.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Mar 27, 2013 12:47am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: This is Spinal Tap

The people who lost interest after Pigpen died - as you say, some were just Pigpen fans & preferred Lovelights to Dark Stars. Some didn't like the piano/Donna/the new, softer type songs - or, more in general, the band's loss of energy as the music got more laid-back & subtle in the early '70s.
Then, also important, there was the change of vibe at the shows - something which doesn't come across on tape, but in the '60s most people at Dead shows tended to be hardcore fans, but by '71 lots of people were discovering them & shows were getting more crowded with "rock & roll yahoos," while at the same time the band was also getting more professional, less acid-testy in the way they played. So Marty Weinberg, for instance, lost interest around then since he felt the shows were getting too professional & predictable.

You mention a couple good reasons for their increasing success - one, the variety of new songs added in the '70s. I think this is probably more important than "the formula," just the fact that a Dead show was like a variety show where most people could find something to like.
And two, you didn't know what they would play, so musically each show was like a roll of the dice - and the next one might be "the one." Extremely important in keeping people coming back over & over again, no matter how dire the band got!
And, of course, the audience which was its own show aside from whatever the band did. I'm not sure the band had to do anything in the last 20 years except just show up; the unique show atmosphere they'd started took on its own life.

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Poster: jerlouvis Date: Mar 27, 2013 10:16am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: This is Spinal Tap

I can understand some hardcore fans being disappointed with the new direction the band took in 72' with Keith and Donna and the new material/format because it was considerably different from 67' through mid 69',but if you were still going in 70' it wasn't drastically different in terms of types of music or venues and I doubt if there was a large turn over in the type of people in the crowd.1971 was an anomaly and I don't see how a fan would have had any idea what direction the music was going to take.Although I can see where the crowd might have been undergoing an early version of the "touch head" phenomenon in 71'.As for the professional and predictable aspects their sets could not have been more predictable than 68'-69' at least in late 69' they started to add a bunch of material and mix up the way some of the older stuff was presented,for the acid -testy aspect I guess you had to be there.

What I'm getting at is if you really like their music I can't see how 72' style Dead is so far removed from 68' style Dead that you would no longer want to listen or go.I think at the very least 68'-74' would have a similar appeal,understanding that the music in some ways was very different.I was a staunch early era fan when I started going in 78' and while a little delusional still thought they could pull off music in the GD tradition.

Variety was what I was eluding to in the format comment,different types of music mixed up in a way as to create a certain type of flow to please the crowd and band alike.Not knowing what they were going to play is more myth than fact,within reason you could guess the opener or the ballad,rocker,blues or country slots,and as time went on the second sets became ridiculously predictable as the tour played out,what lent an air of anything could happen was clever use of the "break out",they would pullout Comes a Time or St. Stephen and and then you would hope for others or just to catch the latest break out and this would also create a sense of anticipation from song to song at a show or show to show on the tour.Around 82' or 83' I started to get the feeling that the music was becoming less important and understood by the crowd and and the band could just show up.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Mar 27, 2013 2:14pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: This is Spinal Tap

I guess if you were following lots of shows on a tour, you could predict what the next setlist might bring (I forgot about that) - and for sure you'd know "the format" (jam>drums>space>ballad>rocker, etc). But there was still some unpredictability about what songs would come up, combined with your hopes that it might be certain favored songs...

It's true, Dead shows were never more predictable than in late '68/early '69. Maybe they just felt more chaotic to people who were there & didn't know the Dead's regular "format" of the time. ("Didn't this song start an hour ago?")
By 'acid-testy' aspect, part of that I think is the feeling that the band is not separate from the crowd, that everyone's joined together in making the music happen. As venues & crowds got bigger, I gather there was more of a feeling of separation or distance from the band.
Also, late-'60s concert-goers sometimes mention the unpredictable aspect of seeing how the band would get it together on any particular night - would the jams find new zones & soar? or would the band fall flat? In reviews there are often references to the band struggling with the improv or searching for the right connection, something that's harder to tell on tape. Once the band were playing more reliably consistent shows in the '70s, this aspect might have diminished.

I think there's a pretty big difference in feel between just '70 and '72, let alone earlier/later years - but then, I tend to focus on microscopic differences between years.
People at the time definitely noticed that some songs, like Viola Lee, had disappeared, and you can hear lots of forlorn people calling for "Alligator" or "Stephen" well after they'd expired.
But it's true a lot of the material is still the same, and lots of the fans were probably still the same too - I'd guess only a fraction of the "fans" dropped away.
But, looking at lots of reviews of the time, I can't help but notice how many times I see "they're not like they used to be," and often not approving. There was sometimes shock from people who'd worn out their Anthem or Live/Dead albums, then they came to a show and got a light country-rock outfit. (And maybe there's always a "they were better a few years ago" bias!)
Then again, historically we see that the Dead also picked up a lot of steady fans BECAUSE of their constant changes in style, and keeping things new. So, going in the '70s, you might come to expect that they'd do something different this year than last.

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Poster: jerlouvis Date: Mar 27, 2013 7:59pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: This is Spinal Tap

If you were paying attention you were very rarely surprised,there was no feeling of anything is possible,but more of a good it's Stella,not Black Peter than I wonder what it's going to be.

Not having gone to any early era shows I can't speak to the vibe of what the crowd was like or what it felt like to listen and watch the band,but I can't say I put much stock in what I've heard and read from folks who did.I'm of the opinion that the music we have on tape is a good enough representation of that performance,I don't need stories from a sketchy source or to have been there first hand to grasp the music.

I find there are differences between each year through 79' and big differences between 70' and 72',but my thinking is if you really like to hear Jerry,Phil,Bob and Billy play music together there is enough commonality from 68'-74' to find something to like from each year and your reaction wouldn't be they suck now because it's not as "energetic" or it's too country,etcetera.I don't get how the Anthem or Live/Dead fans would have been shocked to hear the band had changed some since the bands most popular records Workingman's and American Beauty had to radio staples at the time.I think you hit it on the head with "they were better a few years ago" theory.I can see people bemoaning the loss of material they really liked as a reason for losing interest,but in that time span they didn't shelve that much stuff outside of the few you mentioned.

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Poster: William Tell Date: Mar 27, 2013 3:40pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: This is Spinal Tap

"...looking at lots of reviews of the time, I can't help but notice how many times I see "they're not like they used to be," and often not approving. There was sometimes shock from people who'd worn out their Anthem or Live/Dead albums, then they came to a show and got a light country-rock outfit. (And maybe there's always a "they were better a few years ago" bias!)"

That's me in a nutshell; as I've made clear, I did still considered them THE best thing since sliced bread, so this was along the lines of what we do here (since we love them more than anyone else it gives us the right to be brutally honest).

But, yes, we kept thinking that these changes weren't always for the better, and that some of it was "oh, it's the jazz influence like WoftheFlood", but some was, "hmmm, maybe they just can't manifest that level of intensity anymore..." as I've mentioned prior.

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Poster: William Tell Date: Mar 27, 2013 10:20am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: This is Spinal Tap

Absolutely! It's the energy that's different in the 68/74 comparison...they just sound too soft and subtle and refined, and lack real punch.

Hard to describe, but we felt it very distinctly at the time...among our group seeing and critiquing them at the time, the music types (ie, those in bands) always defended their right to evolve, and to improve (I always acknowledged their play might have improved, but I insist vocals go down hill after 75 or so), arguing with me that the 77-79 sound was an improvement, but only in some technical sense, not gut level for me...

The eleven seems to me to still represent a pinnacle of musician ship though I have no idea how hard this or that sound is to achieve, etc.